Filipino payment services company Cebuana Lhuillier has secured a stake in Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) Ventures Ltd., a blockchain startup backed by investment from Korean messaging app Kakao, Manila Standard reported. Parent company P.J. Lhuillier, Inc., a non-bank financial service provider with over 2,500 branches in the Philippines, described the investment as a bid to gain access to the growing digital market in financial services. PJLI president and CEO Jean Henri Lhuillier said investment was a significant milestone for the company as it moves to take advantage of new opportunities in fintech. “This is another milestone in our continuing pursuit to expand our horizon and make a significant impact as we enter the digital arena. With our robust 2,500 branch network and strong partnerships with key financial players such as SCI and KaKao Talk in place, we are ready to take advantage of our unique ‘bricktech’ set-up and make our mark in this space. Our goal is to be available for our customers 24/7 digitally and SCI is our conduit in doing so.” COO and co-founder of SCI Ventures Inc., Miguel Cuneta, said the backing of such a well-known institution in the Philippines made this an exciting partnership for SCI Ventures. “We’re happy to be backed by an institution like Cebuana Lhuillier. We are well-aligned in our goal to provide better inclusive financial services in the Philippines. Their extensive brick-and-mortar network is unmatched in reach and efficiency, and going digital is a natural step forward for the company,” Cuneta said. The partnership comes at a time when a growing number of Filipinos are moving towards digital payments. With strong brand recognition in the country, it is expected that Cebuana Lhuillier could become the established player providing digital financial services to over 80 million people currently unserved in the mainstream banking sector. The company is backed by the investment arm of Kakao Talk, the messaging platform used by some 93% of the smartphone owning population of Korea, with over 50 million monthly users relying on the app each month. SCI Ventures Ltd. was established to focus on developing blockchain solutions for greater financial inclusion in the Philippines.